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V=d/t (Or some basic distance question...)

Discussion in 'Research' started by Creed, Aug 21, 2014.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    So this is just a small fact/figure I'd like to know for reference, geography, cartography, and relevance in text.
    How far (on average) would a (healthy) person/party walk or ride (on horseback) in one day on fairly even terrain (with some hills, maybe some woods.)

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2014
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Walking: ordinary person or athletic sort with a heavy pack, figure 2 miles per hour, so 20 miles over a 10 hour period. Probably a bit more with rest and lunch breaks. Athletic sort with a light pack or an ordinary person (no real pack) making a determined effort...maybe 25-30 miles.

    Legionaries in the Roman Empire were expected to march 20 miles a day and then build a fortified encampment...or fight.

    Horseback...no expert, but does depend on breed and condition of horse. Maybe 50 miles a day?
     
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  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I was recently told that during WW2 the German army marched 80 kilometers a day.

    I walk fairly regularly and I'm in decent shape for it. If I don't stop and take pictures I easily do one kilometer in ten minutes.
     
  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    I don't know if it's accurate or not but I remember reading that over longer distances riding a horse isn't significantly faster than relying on your own too legs. Riding is easier since it's the horse doing the actual work and they're faster in the short term but considering the number of times you need to stop to rest and feed the horse the total distance traveled is significantly lower than you might think.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    There is no single formula to help you out here. Weather, obstacles and other conditions will vary so widely you can't make any sort of predictions reliably. The best you can do is to posit ideal conditions and maximum range, so you don't say something silly like "they walked a hundred miles that day and arrived in late afternoon."

    I suppose that's what you are after. Even so, we're still in the realm of heavily laden swallows. You can, however, readily find references about range by horseback and on foot, so I'll leave you to your googling. Meanwhile, though, we should consider some other factors.

    One, it's scary Out There.

    Most people, unless they were armed and not alone, tried their level best to be under a roof come nightfall. Even in Ordinary World, one had any number of wild creatures, not to mention bandits, who could do you harm. There's a reason why so many fairy tales take place in a forest. It was bloody dangerous. And dangerously bloody. So your traveler is looking for shelter. Radically awesome adventurers, of course, are exempted from this, but if you're looking for realism, it's a consideration. It's why merchants, to pick one example, hired armed guards to accompany their goods in transit. Or, to take another example, why peasants tended not to stray further than about 12 miles from home. They needed to be able to get back before dark.

    Queshire makes an excellent point about travel on horseback. Yes, you can go faster on horseback, but you can't push them too hard. The poor things, they'll try and then they die. The only really effective way to go fast on horseback over long distances is by post; that is, swapping horses at way stations. Pony Express, for the Americans.

    Two, or maybe it's Five, one should not ignore the effect of geography. Rivers can be crossed only at certain places. Mountains ranges likewise. Lakes are a different kettle of fish. Then there's mud, swamps, deserts, and so on. Ideal conditions therefore require ample water, level ground, solid ground, warm days, no rain (or snow), fordable rivers, no large bodies of water, and no war or other unpleasantness in the neighborhood. In short, not much of anywhere, really.

    The good news is, you can take your 15 miles a day, or your 25 miles a day, or thereabouts, and adjust it to *exactly* the speed your story needs, simply by tweaking the variables above. No need for nasty formulae.

    I'm sympathetic, despite being glib. I currently have a need to have my MC cover about 220 miles as quickly as possible, so the question of How Many Miles one man must ride is entirely relevant. I'm figuring about six days (it's summer, so there's plenty of daylight), but I could probably get away with five. But twenty days would be stupid; so would two days. Try thinking more in terms of a range than of a specific figure. You'll be more at home, on the range.
     
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  6. Artless

    Artless Minstrel

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    As a former soldier, in clear open terrain, carrying approx 40 kilos of gear we where expected to be able to walk 5 kilometres an hour.
    We would do 40 kilometres in about 8 hours, with 10 minute breaks every hour. The thing is, even with the most comfortable, broken in boots, you get blisters. You build up lactic acid in your calves/thighs. You may walk all day long. Maybe even for a few days. But by god you will be sore. Very, very sore.

    I recall marching 25 kilometres in a day, including a number of other tasks (attacks, stores carry, obstacle course, etc.) We were beat afterwards. Absolutely exhausted.

    The other thing to consider is of course, mental and physcial health before hand. Has the MC been sleep deprived leading up to this. Are they afraid for their lives? For someone elses? All of this takes a toll. A very significant one.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    In a rough sense, we could have a formula for this; call it a "terrain percentage."

    Start with someone's fitness and pace to give them speed per hour under nearly ideal conditions. Like ThinkerX's

    • Ordinary person or athletic sort with a heavy pack, 2 mph
    • Athletic sort with a light pack or an ordinary person (no real pack) making a determined effort, 2.5-3 mph
    • Find the speed for horses, for wagons, and for horses by post. (For the last, the Mongol post system seems to give figures for the ideal speed.)

    Call it 10 hours a day-- but use the hourly figure if someone's got a tight deadline like nightfall, or is pushing on to 12 or 15 or more hours until he collapses (I think how long he'd have is more about individual desperation than any common figure).

    Edit: and, remember Skip's point about fords, passes, and so on. Follow the route through those even though it isn't the straightest. (Or if someone cuts cross-country, break out a much nastier set of rules for that.)

    Then, look at estimates for how much different kinds of terrain slow it. Modest hills? Thick forest making the road weave? Mountain pass? A mountain pass in winter? Bandit country? Any combination of those would cut that 2/hour 20/day down to 90%, 70%, or some other figure.

    Very rough, but I think that's what we want: "It's a thick 70% forest." And whatever terrain we use, we want to understand just how tough the going is so we can give the readers a sense of it without overstating it-- and so they'll believe that the guards post-riding the long way around on the road might have a fair chance of heading the hero off.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2014
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just to echo wordwalker here: I think the key for us as writers is that we want to avoid saying something silly. We want whatever travel statements we make to be within the bounds of reason so the statement doesn't take the reader out of the story.

    And don't forget your non-humans. Do orcs move faster than humans? Over long distances? Short distances? You may want to think your way through the whole story, or at least review this during revision. I know for my own purposes I had to put considerable thought to how fast my goblins move. It had repercussions all through the story.
     
  9. Nameback

    Nameback Troubadour

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    Check out ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World which is interactive and really neat. Now, Rome obviously had roads, and the Mediterranean Sea was a big time-saver that connected a great deal of the empire, but it gives you some ideas--especially if your world has decent roads.

    Edit: Check out these routes I just plotted from London(inium) to Rome(/a).

    [​IMG]

    Interesting thing to note: The shorter overland route takes more than TWICE as long as the route that travels around the coast of France, overland briefly, and then across the Mediterranean. 60+ days versus under 30. I picked prioritizing for fastest route, but you can also look at things like "cheapest" and traveling by donkey vs by foot, etc. I didn't show it here, but the cheapest route goes entirely by sea from the English coast all the way to Rome--down the coast of France, all the way around the Iberian peninsula, and then into the Mediterranean. Still only takes 40 days, too, quicker than the shortest route. Also shows how traveling by sea is cheaper than by land, and consolidating your carriers is good for cost.

    Edit 2: If you change the land transportation method to Horse Relay (which a military messenger might use, switching to a fresh horse frequently at forts, outposts, & cities and riding each horse to exhaustion) you end up with a different fastest route, and it only takes <9 days! God, this thing is so COOL.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Six months to cross the Roman Empire end to end on foot. The program appears to assume a consistent 30 kilometer a day pace. Or spend a month and a half at sea.
     
  11. Nameback

    Nameback Troubadour

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    You can pick different speeds from the drop-down menu--there's quite a few!

    [​IMG]

    Those speeds alone might be a good guideline that answers the OP's question.

    Edit: Again, accounting for the fact that the Romans had a lot of pretty good roads.
     
  12. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Delightful!

    The thing to keep in mind is that it's measuring travel by Roman roads or by water, to give it maximum speed. I see the point that this speed almost always makes up for taking routes well around the rougher areas... as long as you're in a Roman-type world where there are high-quality roads going near everywhere. (Or at least one that's coastal and civilized enough to have reliable sea routes.)

    As long the roads are there, what you might add is a "route percentage," a snap judgment that, say, the road from A to B has some mountains to swing around so it's 120% of the crow-flying distance between them.

    You'd probably also want some of the thread's other figures for your more backwater roads (a nicely mixed metaphor).

    Meanwhile if someone goes off-road, and it's a race or an intense journey where the details matter... I think the best thing might be to only use terrain you can get good description about, for both speed and the experience. If you can't really understand and spell out just how thick a forest would have to be to reduce your hero to 40% speed but not 30%, it's better to use the 30% forest you can do justice to, and probably plot up a delay for the patrol on the road that he's racing against. (Writing 101, it's always easier to mess with human behavior than physical facts.)
     
  13. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    "Average human foot speed over broken ground is 4 miles an hour."--Tommy Lee Jones's character in "The Fugitive"
     
  14. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Useful -- except, how broken is broken? We need to know that enough to describe it.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    True dat. One of the differences between novels and movies. They can get away with a line like that, we can't. They also get quick cuts and fade to black, both of which I have longed to have, many times over. Then again, I never need to hire a second unit director!
     
  16. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Here are three links that speak on what realistic horse travel is.

    Pony Express - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They had stations every 10 miles because that's as far as a horse could gallop before tiring, so they would switch horses every 10 miles.

    The following links say realistic horse travel over long distances is 20-30 miles a day. Yes, a horse could travel way further per day, but you have to take into account that a horse will tire, and you just can't gallop them everyday until they drop. They must travel at a sustainable pace.

    Another factor is the type of horse and what condition they are in. Well conditioned horses could travel further than the 30 miles I mentioned above, but if a horse isn't trained to do long distances, they like humans won't perform. Horses can be out of shape too.

    Horses: An Informational Site
    Fantasy Fiction Factor - Using Horses in Fiction
     
  17. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Thank you so much for your replies! I'm SUPER sorry about the lateness of my own. It's been a hectic first week of school.
     
  18. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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